Monday, December 12, 2005

A Tale Of Two Root Beers

"It was the best of Root Beers, it was the worst of Root Beers". - Chuck Dickens

Or words to that effect. The problem is that so many Root Beers are the same, in all too many cases. Take the case of Boylan Bottling Company and their Root Beers. Unbeknownst to many out there they have started to make 2 different Root Beers, other than regular and diet. One I have found at Wild Oats and the other I have found at the usual places. The Wild Oats version is a "Natural" Root Beer and lists the following ingredients:

Carbonated Water, Cane Sugar, Pure Essential Oils Of Sweet Birch, Cinnamon, Sassafras And Anise, Extracts Of Bourbon Vanilla, Yucca And Licorice, Other Natural Flavours And Spices, Caramel Color (From Cane Sugar), Citric Acid. The bottle boasts a different tagline: From Earth and even sports a different company logo. Unlike the "regular" bottles withe their "Boylan Bottleworks" labelling the Natural sports a label saying "Boylan's". That's quite a departure, in my view.

The "regular" Boylan with its "Best Head" tagline lists its ingredients as:
Carbonated Water, Cane Sugar, Natural And Artificial Flavors, Caramel Color, Natural Yucca Extract, Citric Acid, Sodium Benzoate (Preserves Freshness).

So, we can see that, according to the ingredients list there are differences. I do hope this is a "scoop" where other reviews are concerned, I have seen no mention of the Natural anywhere else and I have looked. Are they the same? Nope. Not really. The tastes they put forth are subtly and flavourfully different. Both of these stand out from other Root Beers and stand on their own against each other.

So...let's take a look at the reviews.

The Boylan's Natural

Carbonation: Better than a soda. Nice large bubbles that convey the thickness of the brew.
Mouth Feel: Not creamy but thicker than many brews.
Root Beer Flavour: Old fashioned flavour undertones of sassafras, birch and a nice bourbon vanilla taste.
Sweetness: Not too sweet. A nice cane taste that speaks of carmelisation.
Head: Nothing to brag about. The head is OK but only lasts about 20 seconds.
Aftertaste: Complex, the vanilla stands out but there's a sassafras undertone that lingers, too. Not cloying.
Aroma: A mellow Root Beer Aroma with a great Bourbon vanilla scent that doesn't overpower.
Overall: What could be a nicely complex and flavouful brew is overshadowed by the vanilla, which dominates this root beer. There is a very subtle sassafras undertone that should be much more upfront and in your face.
All in all a decent root beer. Give it a 7/10 or a B+.

Now for the regular Boylan Bottleworks Root Beer.

Carbonation: Not as good or long lasting as a regular soda but largish bubbles. The bottle clearly states "Best Head" and this is sadly not true.
Mouth Feel: Not creamy but thicker than a soda. It's a decent Root Beer mouthfeel.
Root Beer Flavour: Not a load of Root Beer flavour but lots of vanilla.
Sweetness: Too sweet in the aftertaste but not unpleasant.
Head: 20 seconds. Very short lived despite the claim of "Best Head" on the bottle.
Aftertaste: Vanilla and caramelised cane sugar taste. The vanilla flavour sticks around and almost become cloying after a while.
Aroma: Vanilla and cane sugar the dominant aromas in this brew. The scent does not scream Root Beer but is still easily ID'ed.
Overall: The cane sugar taste is nice and, along with the vanilla dominates the brew. It is not overly complex but is a nice brew. Gets a 6/10. A solid B-.

My recommendation? If you ca find the Natural it is the better brew of the two. The regular Bottleworks brew is a good bottled Root Beer and won't disappoint, but the Natural will make you feel good.
Boylan's bottles are nice to look upon, as well. The upraised lettering, painted on labels and amber glass speak to the companies committment to quality.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Things Now Gone.

In my first post I spoke about Barq's Root Beer and some of the places that I associated it with. One of the first was a place called the Dog House, Jr. The Dog House is long gone but at some time somebody made a rather lame attempt to revive what was once a regional icon. There was no better place on the Gulf Coast (possibly in that section of the South) to get a chili dog. They came in a wide variety. Plain dogs, chili. Chili with cheese. And all the usual toppings. Once your dog was assembled it went into a sandwich steamer for a quick press and a softened bun and melted cheese. Get a dozen, slap them in a cooler and off you went.
Why the original closed up will always be a mystery to me. But one thing isn't. Never try to follow in perfections footsteps unless you know you can do better. Anything less than the original is unacceptable. And so it is, or rather was with the Dog & Burger House. I don't know if it survived the recent devastation in Gulfport that was wrought by hurricane Katrina. In fact, I don't care if it did. Better that it went into the gutter of history before another day passed with it riding on the esteemed coat tails of an legend.

One other place will be greatly missed. The finest seafood on the Gulf Coast was available at the White Cap Restaurant in Gulfport. The White Cap had....has...been in Gulfport at the Yacht Harbour as long as I can remember.

The White Cap sat on the Gulf side of the Yacht Harbour. While you were enjoying your meal you could look out upon the Gulf of Mexico, John Moses Pier or see the ship channel and watch the banana boats come, go and unload. The White Cap boasted thatthey had the best seafood platter on the Gulf Coast and it was not an idle boast. The Seafood Platter contained Stuffed Crab, Jumbo Shrimp, Bay Scallops, Oysters, Fish Fillets, Crab Fingers, Fries (or New Potatoes), A Side Salad and Hush Puppies. Do I even need to mention that it was all fried to golden perfection? All for $15.95. Add an order of Oysters on the Half Shell and a Barq's and you have a slice of heaven for the you spent there.
I've seen the satellite pictures of the Gulfport Yacht Club Harbour. It was scoured clean by the storm and, as far as I can see nothing remains. I, and my family can only hope that the kind folks who owned the White Cap decide to spit in the face adversity and rebuild a Gulf Coast icon. I look forward to the day my family and I, once again walk through the doors and set ourselves down for a memorable meal in the best damned restaurant in South.

Ya'll come back now, y'hear?